“Hot sauce is not just a condiment, it’s a cultural phenomenon,” wrote Broadsheet’s Quincy Malesovas last year.
In Australia, it’s yet to take off in the same way as in the United States, at least beyond pantry staples Tabasco (which has been immortalised by local artist Billie Justice Thomson) and Huy Fong’s sriracha.
But that’s slowly changing, with a new wave of hot sauce prioritising flavour and creativity over sheer heat.
For Christian Canala, founder of new Adelaide food distributor Secco Fine Foods, it’s the imagination and freedom of interpretation that appeals to him. “The best thing about hot sauce is that there are almost no rules,” he tells Broadsheet. “I think that freedom is a chef’s dream.”
“As Secco Fine Foods we’re trying to bring something different to Adelaide’s chefs,” he continues. “Including really interesting partnerships and out-of-the-box products because we absolutely love the restaurant scene in SA.”
Now Canala’s combining his passions in the Hot Sauce Project, which brings together six of Adelaide’s best restaurants and bars – Arkhé, Soi 38, Good Gilbert, Nola, Masa and Tony Tomatoes – to create six different limited edition hot sauces to raise funds for people in Ukraine.
“First, they are all restaurants that have brought something unique to Adelaide’s dining scene,” he says. “Second, they’re all so different … We didn’t want six of the same sauce, we wanted six different interpretations of the very loose theme of ‘hot sauce’. What we’ve ended up with is different colours, flavour profiles, heat levels and artistic expressions.”
There’s a smoky, earthy red sauce from Arkhé that’s perfect for pairing with red meat; a jalapeno-based green sauce by Nola made specifically for fried chicken; a fiery nam jim jaew-inspired sauce by Soi 38 with a 4.5 out of five heat rating; and a spicy green sauce made by Good Gilbert from habanero, jalapeno and Mediterranean green chillis that’s spent two weeks fermenting in an oak barrel. Plus, a punchy South American-inspired sauce by Masa made with ghost peppers and yellow aji chilli, and a Mediterranean-style red chilli sauce with tangy tomato and garlic by Tony Tomatoes that’s ideal for dolloping over pizza and pasta.
Six local artists – Jade Mars, Maddison Henriks, Olivia Mannella, Mitch Hearn, Olivia Mastrodomenico and Canala’s sister Nina – have designed six vibrant labels for each bottle, as well as limited edition A2 prints.
“I wanted some personality on the label to match the very different styles of the sauces,” says Canala. “Honestly, my sister is my reference and an insanely talented artist. She helped choose the artists based on our request for bold, unique colours and styles that could suit the boldness of the sauces.”
The sauces will be available to try at Nola – on International Fried Chicken Day – on July 9, alongside the bar’s famous fried chook. And every dollar made from the night, and from bottle sales, will go towards Unicef’s efforts in Ukraine.
“Our venues have been so willing to support this cause, and thanks to their generosity – they’re making these sauces for free – every dollar from every bottle of sauce and print, plus all the profits from the Nola event, is going straight to Unicef.”
The donation target is $20,000, and you can pre-purchase the bottles and event tickets online now. The sauces are available individually (at $15 each) and in packs of six (for $90), which include each one.